Atlantic Division as Open as the Ocean
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Four teams remain alive in division race. With the ball at the NC State 4-yard line and just under a minute to play, FSU was in prime position to all but seal the ACC Atlantic Division on Thursday night. Still unbeaten in league play, the Seminoles could have made it nearly impossible for any of their division foes to catch them in the standings...if they could have just punched it in. But when quarterback Christian Ponder and tailback Ty Jones collided during a handoff - causing a fumble that FSU lost - the entire division was turned on its side. Now, with the 'Noles having a division loss, Clemson, NC State and even Maryland have new life.
Everyone will talk about the fumble as the key to the FSU loss. But really, the victory came to NC State by electing to go for the touchdown a minute and a half earlier from the FSU 1-yard line. Needing a field goal to tie, the Pack coaching staff instead went for it, and the result was the game winning score - a pass from Russell Wilson to George Bryant to put NC State up 28-24. This was the first time the Wolfpack had the lead since 7-0 just five minutes in.
But it was far from over as FSU drove down the field appearing ready to take the win back to Tallahassee. All the way to the 4-yard line they marched. But that's when disaster happened for FSU....
So now the ACC Atlantic is wide open. Wake Forest and BC are out of the picture, but each of the other four teams are 100 percent alive in the pursuit of a spot in Charlotte. Fans at FSU, Clemson and NC State all still have very good reason to believe they can win the Atlantic Division. Here is a look at each team trying to make the ACCCG:
Clemson (2-2 ACC) - The Tigers seemed down and out after a loss to UNC made them 0-2 in the ACC. But they have bounced back and won two straight, with BC next - a team they better beat. Clemson holds the head-to-head over Maryland already, and has NC State at home next week. The biggest challenge ahead (besides the Wolfpack) is winning on the road at FSU in three weeks. Winning out would have them at 6-2 with head-to-head wins over each Atlantic Division team.
FSU (4-1 ACC) - The 'Noles had this thing wrapped up, and they let it slip away. Still, I see this division as FSU's to lose. They have UNC at home this weekend, Clemson at home the following weekend, and a trip to Maryland after that. Win those three games and they still play in the ACCCG. Pretty simple plan, really.
NC State (3-1 ACC) - The Pack have the big head-to-head win in their favor with the triumph over FSU. But there is still a ton of work to do for this team. The Pack must travel to Clemson in eight days, and also have games at UNC and at Maryland (Wake is at home). While they only have one ACC loss now, two or three losses is not out of the question by year's end. This team is good, but I see them losing at least one more ACC game.
Maryland (2-1 ACC) - Somehow the Twerps have played just three ACC games, with the two wins being Duke and BC. They lost at Clemson, giving them the disadvantage in that head-to-head if it should get to that point. With Miami, FSU and NC State still left on the slate, I see Maryland being eliminated in the coming weeks. But for now - mathematically - they are still in the picture.
So who will win it?
In my opinion, FSU still has the advantage. I think Clemson will defeat NC State from Death Valley in eight days, setting up a huge game between the Tigers and Seminoles in Tallahassee November 13th. That game would basically decide the ACC Atlantic - and who gets to go to Charlotte. Until Clemson can win a big game on the road, I would have to pick FSU to come away with the win, and thus the division crown as every other team would have more than one loss...
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